A sermon preached by Bob Keller on October 17, 2010 based upon Jeremiah 31:27 – 34.
Over the past several days there has been a lot of talk in the news about contracts. The Fox Network and Cablevision are working on one as we speak. For Fred Schlosshauer’s sake, I hope they can get one worked out before the kickoff of today’s Giant’s game!
There’s also been a lot of talk about mortgage contracts. Now a contract is supposed to be an agreement between two or more parties to do, or not to do, something. In the case of a mortgage, one party agrees to lend money to another to buy a house and the homebuyer agrees to pay the money back, with interest.
However, a problem can up in that simple contract. Many buyers didn’t thoroughly read what they were agreeing to. And the reason this issue hit the news a week ago – it was discovered that foreclosure processes were started without the lender reading the papers either. Some contract! Neither party read it!
I mentioned contracts because the scripture lesson that Anita read for us today talked about a covenant. A covenant, in the Biblical sense, is different from a contract. A covenant, as it’s used here is a promise from God. We didn’t see any “contract negotiations.” Basically, the covenant said, “Follow my law and I’ll protect you because you are my people.”
Well, the Jews had a problem with that and largely through no fault of their own. They were human. In Jeremiah’s day there were kings that would guide the people into following God’s law.
They would get rid of all the idols that the Jews seemed to have a penchant for worshipping when things got tough. But when those kings were gone, the idols soon came back and God’s Law was forgotten. And there was no shortage of available idols as the Jews fell alternately under the rule of Egypt and Babylon.
You know, confession time here, I really don’t much like reading the Old Testament. I had a look at the Lectionary for today and I read, researched and prayed about the passages offered in the Epistle lesson and the Gospel lesson, but they really didn’t “get” to me. So I turned to today’s passage and found what some Biblical scholars call the most profound prophecy of the Old Testament. The promise, through Jeremiah, of the New Covenant.
Listen again to what Jeremiah said: “”I (that means God) will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
God gave the Jews His law written on stone tablets. The tablets were then placed in the Ark of the Covenant and the Ark was placed in the Holy of Holies in the temple. Only the highest priest could enter there. God’s Law wasn’t to be worshipped like an idol. It was to be followed.
But the Jews had a difficult time following the Law that God gave them. God expected that His Law would be embodied by His people, but Jeremiah tells us that God’s people sinned and broke the covenant with God.
Do you remember the fuss in Alabama a few years ago when Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore defied a federal court order and displayed a granite monument of the Ten Commandments in a Montgomery courthouse?
Christians held prayer vigils on the courthouse steps for nearly two years. Nearly a million dollars was spent on legal fees. T shirts and bumper stickers were sold with “Jesus is the Standard,” and “Bring Back God,” not only in Alabama, but all over the country.
People cried when an out-of-state moving company was brought in to remove the 5,200 lb granite monument. No Alabama moving company would touch it.
I’m not going to argue whether or not the Ten Commandments belong in an Alabama courthouse.
What I do want you to ponder is why the placement of the Commandments was so important to some Christians. Why does it bother us so much? The Third Commandment is – “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” I think for some of the protesters on their knees outside of that courthouse that the Ten Commandment monument had become an idol. We see it as representing our faith and as a reminder of God’s will for our lives. But do we need a 5200 pound granite structure to remind us of God’s Law?
Do you believe that God will write his commandments on your heart and place his law in your minds? Through the teachings of Christ, God has written the commandment of love on our hearts and He brings our minds in line with our hearts so that God’s laws of love can be followed in our daily lives.
Does the lack of a stone monument mean the absence of God in America? An Alabama pastor said, “It would be very inspiring for God-fearing Americans to see the Alabama monument on display again. However, something more pleasing to God would be to see the Ten Commandments written upon the hearts of each and every human being on this earth. Then the great moral code of God would indeed be the foundation for a righteous world and its government.”
Is God’s law written on your heart? Is His truth in your mind?
Let’s say you’re at Shoprite one day. You see a lady come out with a cart full of groceries and she takes her keys from her purse and opens the trunk of her car. The grocery bags go in the trunk. She gets in the car and drives away. Then you see it. She left her purse in the shopping cart. Do you need a granite monument sitting there to tell you what to do?
You saw the children up here earlier in the service. We all love those kids, but it’s hard to watch them grow up isn’t it? Part of the difficulty comes from seeing them lose their innocence. It’s said that children are born with an innate desire for righteousness. But as they grow, and they experience the injustices of the world, they become jaded. They become more like us and sometime “we” don’t like “us,” do we?
Is God’s Law written on their hearts? Is God’s truth in their minds?
Over the years I’ve collected a lot of Bibles. I have pocket-sized Bibles, large print Bibles, leather-bound, soft cover and hardback Bibles. I have several translations. I have Bibles with commentaries. I have bibles with notes. I have books that tell me how to read Bibles. If all of them were gone tomorrow, I would still have this:
I would know that God’s law is written on my heart. I would know that God’s truth is in my mind. I would still know that God loved me so much that He sent His only son to die for me. I would know that it’s by grace that I’ve been saved through faith and not through anything that I’ve done or that I could do. I would know that the greatest commandment is to love God with all my heart, all my mind and all my soul and after that that I should love my neighbor as I love myself and I would still know that one day we’ll be in heaven with people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
And you would still know it, too.
That is God’s Covenant. That is God’s law that he wrote on our hearts. That is God’s truth in our minds.
The base of the cross, the fulfillment of that Covenant is a level playing field where all are invited. Pay attention to what God has written on your heart. Pay attention to what God has placed in your mind. Listen for God in your life for He is always there with His promise.